Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Long Goodbye

Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have to convince the voters that they're not really pro-gun control, pro-choice, pro-gay. Romney is trying to flip-flop into an ayatollah of the Christian right, Giuliani is sticking to his uber-hawk act: last week he rehearsed a version of the "madman theory" of foreign policy associated with Nixon. Thompson is counting on doing well among gun owners who opposed the immigration bill. And McCain is still out there, casting aspersions on Democrats for "disrespecting the officer corps" (his Orwellian construction for "criticizing the war policy"), and promising full speed ahead into deeper military involvement in Iraq. No one is pulling these worthies from the left. To their right are Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, and various other scary folks. What is going on here? Part of the problem is that with the President's policies held in such disfavor by the general public, the only hope for a national-level Republican campaign is to play to the base. Meanwhile the GOP convention awards bonus delegates to states that voted for Bush in the last election, or that are solidly in the "Red" column. Why they adopted such rules is beyond me; I'm sure it made sense to someone at the time. The upshot is that the Republicans have a more acute version of the whipsaw effect that both parties have to deal with during presidential election cycles: you've got to run to your base during the primaries, then reverse course and run to the center during the general election. When you look at these guys and assess their national chances, given the conversation they're having at the moment, the only question is, How many stops to Wilderness Junction? Call this Republican primary season the Long Goodbye.

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